Wednesday, 18 February 2015

My Best Before Date

I'm getting all sorts of good press (if you count Facebook likes and Twitter retweets as "press") for the way I'm seen to be handling my life-threatening illness.  But there needs to be one good friend in everyone's life, and mine called it as he saw it.  "Are you in f*ck'in denial?"

Maybe I am.  Anyone can appear to be a hero before the going gets tough.  We haven't hit the tough part yet with my little problem.

Some people are impressed that I still go to work everyday.  I'm not.  I look at things as if I wasn't one of the privileged, as if I lived in a time or place where there were no social safety nets, no savings, no benevolent bosses.  In a different world I'd have no choice.  In this world, in many ways I don't.

But there is the other side of the coin.  If it happens that I expire before my best before date, then my wife and I will have missed out on the retirement years together.  Is it fair that I don't try to capture at least some of what that might have looked like while I'm still in great shape?

I am putting my resume in at Walmart later today.  I'm going to make a hell of a greeter.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

End of Life Issues in 2015

2015 will be an important year in discussing end of life issues in Canada.  There is a federal election scheduled for October, and almost certainly the "Dying with Dignity" debate will be engaged.  Indeed, two of the major political party leaders have stated that only those candidates whose views match those of their own, that Canadians should have the right to physician assisted suicide, will be eligible to run for their parties.  Those parties are the NDP and the Liberals.  In effect, on this important matter of conscience, the leaders have instructed their members to check their conscience at the door and toe the party line.

In effect, Catholics are not welcome in either the NDP or Liberal party.  Aah, I hear you say, not every Catholic believes in protecting life from conception to natural death.  Aye, there's the rub.  Do you then believe it's cool if not every NDP or Liberal or Conservative actually believes in every plank of the party platform, swearing allegiance publicly but acting quite differently when it suits him?

I think the Catholic Church takes a lot of heat when it reminds it's members of the "rules", political parties not so much.  In truth, no Catholic can in good conscience run for Justin Trudeau's party.  That's too bad for two reasons.  First, Catholics without good conscience will run and that will be seen as tacit endorsement by the church (since everyone knows every Catholic's every word and action is a reflection on the entire church, especially when it's bad), and secondly that the well-formed conscience of any denomination or faith tradition will not be in the room.

It will be our responsibility to watch carefully and rise above the emotion, as the results will effect generations to come.  Powerful testimonial videos and interviews from suffering, terminally ill people will be the propaganda in favour of dying with dignity.  Less easy to find will be video testimony from those who wish to live with dignity until their dying breath.  Same prognosis, same pain, same suffering....different and uncomfortably unpopular expression of truth.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Gatekeeper and Bad Manners

In sales we find ourselves often meeting the gatekeeper first, before the prospect.  You know the gatekeeper - it's his or her job to screen on behalf of the boss.  It's a productivity thing.  Unfortunately it can be costly, as most gatekeepers only have the authority to say no.  It's rare and refreshing to find one with the knowledge, confidence and authority to say yes.  These people are the bridge to a mutually beneficial relationship.

Unfortunately its increasingly rare to find a gatekeeper with good manners.  In working with my own team, each of us being gatekeepers and bridges for the each other, we have stressed the importance of courtesy and respect.  It is disconcerting the number of people I have met who are downright rude, not realizing that it reflects badly on their entire organization.  I once asked such a person if his boss was aware that he spoke to people with such disrespect, after he grilled and interrogated me, refusing to answer my questions or transfer the call to one who could.  And get this - I was trying to buy the product, not sell them anything!

Do your gatekeepers have the authority to be rude on your behalf?  You may not have explicitly granted it.  Maybe you ignore it when you pretend not to hear the way they speak to others.  Perhaps in your failure to definitively establish otherwise you have allowed it.  In doing nothing or behaving badly yourself, you may actually be encouraging it.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Cheerleaders and Cancer

When I was a student at QSS I used to enjoy going to the football games against our arch rivals: everyone else.  But especially Moira.  And Trenton High.

The cheerleaders looked pretty, the young men on the field were handsome and athletic, but I wasn't there for either.  (Actually, some of the guys were ugly spuds and a good face mashing into the turf would have only improved their looks.)

I was fascinated by the dynamics, the interaction, the hype and the strategy.  I paid closer attention to the coaches than the players, to the plays than the game.  One thing struck me then as strange and still does to this day.  It was the cheerleaders shouting "we're going to fight, we're going to fight, we're going to win!"

Seriously?  When we've never won against this team before?  Are you psychic?  And who is this "we" you speak of?  I'm not on the field; my buddies George, and Shane, and Donny and a bunch of other guys are.

Clearly they weren't talking to the players, it was to the team supporters.  Their job was to get us all hyped up so the positive energy would carry the day, or at least bolster the training, strategy and determination of the team.  I respect that.  Hey, keep your spirits up fans, we're going to need it when the going gets tough.

But there is no place for cheerleaders in my cancer diagnosis.  I really hate the encouraging posts and messages from my well-meaning friends "you're going to fight this thing, you're going to win..."  "if anyone can beat this, you can!"  "be strong and your positive attitude will help you beat this" and my absolute least favourite, "cancer picked a fight with the wrong guy."

No pressure there folks.  Bring on the marching band.

Mesothelioma is thought to be an incurable disease.  I'm not fighting it.  Here's my plan.  I'm going to focus on the strategies and the plan, and if we don't achieve a winning outcome, then at least to beat the spread.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Love the Job you Hate

It is a particularly first world, 21st Century notion that one should quit a job he hates, and pursue his dreams.  "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life," Confucius is supposed to have said.   Maybe one who lived in the 500 BCs could have conjectured a notion that would resonate so soundly with 21st century career focused men whose next meal is not in question.  Maybe.

There is a young man producing videos in which he talks about his life-threatening illness, and he finishes each inspirational video with all the confidence and cache of a man who knows everything, which is true of most young men in their twenties.  (It certainly was of me.  I wish you'd known me then - I had an answer for everything and didn't suffer fools.)

His advice in his popular YouTube videos (apparently even Ellen Degeneres has seen them!) is to do what you love, quit the job you hate, and eat dessert first.   I agree with at least one of those, and it isn't the dessert part.  I do think that, if we have the luxury, we should do do the things we love and enjoy as often as reasonably possible, if not for a living then for recreation and fun; not selfishly and never without consideration for our responsibility to each other and to God.

Doing the Things You Hate to Do
There is a particular strength of character that comes from facing down the challenges which most frighten us, annoy us, cause despair or that we just plain can't stand.  Seeing the task through, with all it's unpleasantness, is a life lesson learned in small chunks that prepares us for the big challenges in life.  It's even more enlightening to do it around people we don't like, or who can't stand us.

Embrace the unpleasant.  You just might find it ain't so bad after all.